Arnold Kling  

One-Party State Watch

Pessimistic Bias Strikes Again... Backwards Induction in The ...

I went to an event on the future of conservatism, described here.

No one was raising bright prospects for the Republican Party. At one point, Governor Daniels, the cover boy for National Review this week and the featured speaker, referred to the Republican Party as an "old jalopy." I believe it was also Governor Daniels who said that "we're in the penalty box." Rich Lowry said that a party's success depends on leaders, tone, policies, and circumstances, and that the Republicans have none of these going for them at the moment. At various points, it was noted out that the Republicans are hurting with young voters, Hispanics, and with intellectuals (a Republican committee staffer made the latter point during the question period). Lowry compared his coming of age under Reagan to today's young voters coming of age under Obama. I estimated the audience as 2 percent Black, 0 percent Hispanic, 2 percent Asian (including South Asians), and 96 percent white.

My question was whether, given all of the baggage of the Republican Party, conservatism ought to look elsewhere. The answers the panelists gave were that the Republicans are pretty much the only game in town for conservativews, and that sooner or later the Democrats will mess up and/or the public will get tired of the Democrats winning all the time.

I would not bet a whole lot on the theory that the American people will vote Republican because they love good competition. The Harlem Globetrotters are entertaining even if they always beat the Washington Generals. As the Republicans lose competitiveness, I predict that the Democrats will focus on using elections as a theatrical exercise for re-affirming group solidarity and loyalty to the progressive corporatist state. The trick will be to get people to watch election returns when there is no suspense. Election coverage will start to look like standard TV spectacles (think of the Academy Awards), featuring celebrities, tender emotional moments designed to make us bond with politicians, and perhaps even comedians and scantily-clad women.

My answer to my own question is that conservatives and libertarian ought to look elsewhere. Again, I think in terms of private schools, businesses, charities, and so forth. We will have to sacrifice more and more in order to participate in these activities, because they will be under assault from the one-party state. But that is where I would put my energy.

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CATEGORIES: Political Economy

COMMENTS (8 to date)
Arnie Kriegbaum writes:

But for a quirk in California governance, (2/3 majority required for new taxes) we would already have had massive new taxation to support governance as usual at the expense of private life. I believe you are correct to not have much hope in the future for smaller governance and "easy to fix instead of hard to break" regulation.

Private schools, Businesses, and Charities. All are under suspicion and all need to be quietly defended.

David R. Henderson writes:

Dear Arnie Kriegbaum,
But isn't it interesting that we Californians who voted two weeks ago voted down tax increases by about a 65-35 margin.
I gave a talk at an old folks' home in California later that week and one woman asked, "When are we going to end this drug war?" I can see all kinds of hopeful signs in the electorate.

Prakhar Goel writes:

Dear Dr. Henderson,

You are still stuck under the delusion that the policies implemented by a democracy have to resemble, in some form, the policies preferred by the electorate and that the electorate exists as an entity independent of the government. Facts are completely against you here. The fact is that democracies have a long history of adopting policies opposed by a significant majority of the electorate. Consider the weapon's control policies of Europe or the death penalty policies in the US. Regardless of what you think of these issues, it is clear from available data that public opinion and government policy are firmly opposed and yet the policies stay on the books. Secondly, note that people as children are influenced heavily by their teachers and as adults by the information sources available to them. Note also that in both cases, that these are anything but separate from the government and have been shifting steadily to the left for over a century. Regardless of the moral implication, this shift is undeniable and so is its effect. Compare today's government policies to the policies of the Lochner Era when minimum wage, social security, pro-union laws, etc... were considered to be so beyond the pale that the Supreme Court declared them unconstitutional.

This information suggests that your trust in the electorate is misplaced.

Josh writes:

Wasn't it just 5-7 years ago when the Democrats were seen as hapless, persistent losers? Weren't pollsters suggesting that Republicans would stay in power indefinitely? This post’s hyperbole is almost too much to stomach with talks of one-party states, and sham-like elections replete with T&A. Elections are entirely too volatile to make these type of assertions while maintaining any sort of credibility. The Republicans got themselves in this mess by an embarrassing laundry list of missteps, gaffes, idiocy, pandering, scandals, under thinking, emotional politics, and wedge issues. Regardless of your affiliation, both parties are equally capable in their ability to self destruct. The only thing I found so surprising about the Republican meltdown is how long it took.

Dan Weber writes:

Josh wins. Does anyone else remember this from 2004 when things seemed so dead for the Democrats?

This too shall pass.

J Cortez writes:

The idea of a one party state doesn't bother me much, as it has, in a sense, already existed. As Josh, has commented above, the democrats were extremely weak and useless five years ago. Today, they're still useless, but extremely powerful.

I don't vote. In it's current state, I see the voting system as an immoral system. Voting has become about either taking/redistributing income (democrats) or fearmongering/irrational warfare (republicans.) Besides, both parties are so much alike, while their core issues are different, peripheral issues are very similar, to the point that there's little difference in policy. Why bother voting if you get the same results every time regardless of who is in office?

Regarding the republican party: I am generally more offended by them because while they sometimes use rhetoric I agree with, their actions and policy decisions are straight out terrible. Because of this fact, it is my sincere hope that the current republicans implode and take the theocrats, the neo-con parasites, and other partisan hacks attached to them down the toilet as well.

John writes:

I think that instead of focusing on candidates to compete with the one party state, we should focus on referenda or movements behind specific policies that strategically help political competition but that would be difficult for Democrats to oppose without appearing authoritarian. For example, support for changes in voting techniques, such as ranking candidates or eliminating primaries in favor of general run-offs, may allow innovative parties to grow. These changes would undoubtedly reflect the true intent of the electorate better, and the Democrats would be forced to use obviously disingenuous arguments to attack them.

Peter writes:

You're right that we'll never find our way to a freedom unless we strengthen the institutions of civil society, especially at the local level (though don't discount the power of recent social networking technologies). However, given the long-term trend toward centralization the U.S., I doubt we'll see your 250-state America anytime soon. And don't discount secession as perhaps the only real alternative, because D.C. is simply not going to reform itself...

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